How Patriotic Are You?
Formally named, the "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001," the Patriot Act was passed just 45 days after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Though there was virtually no dissent within the Senate or House of Representatives in the vote, cities across the country are rising up against the act. To date, there are about 4 states and 352 cities and counties that have taken measures to protect their civil liberties from the Patriot Act. The Department of Justice states that the Patriot Act is necessary to ensure full protection of our country against future terrorist attacks; that without these measures, there will inevitably be episodes. However, the act has many parts that questionably threaten the civil liberties that we as citizens should enjoy and have been granted.
If you haven't read the actual text of the Patriot Act, which is over 300 pages, you might want to browse through some of it to get a general overview of its provisions if you have the time. Otherwise, there are some handy places, such as the ACLU's overview, where you can find out some of the act's more troubling provisions. In later posts I will go through some of the controversies.
The Department of Justice constructed its own site as a counterattack on all the fear-mongering caused by groups against the Patriot Act. The DOJ states that Congress only made minor changes to already existing laws in order to better serve the country in this post-9/11 world of rampant global terrorism. As far as the government's track record on keeping down terrorism, the DOJ attests that over 150 terror threats have been identified and disrupted, nearly 2/3 of Al Qaeda's known senior leadership has been captured or killed, 191 individuals have been convicted or pled guilty in the United States, and more. The Patriot Act has been instated to help the government gather and cultivate detailed knowlege on terrorism in the United States, dismante the terrorist financial network, and basically, provide a safer America. For more on how the DOJ is using the Patriot Act to help us, click here.
Still, how can we be so sure as to the accuracy of these claims? The Bush Administration cites the current state of affairs, that we have not had any major terror attacks, yet just how much of that is because of this Patriot Act and other security measures and what can be attributed to the lack of terror plots? Most likely, we'll never know, but in the meantime, we have the Patriot Act to wonder mull over.
As functioning American citizens, we have rights to exercise and protect. We put trust in our government to guarantee those rights. According to Hobbesian theory, we give up some freedoms in order to benefit from other freedoms, and this keeps society in check and prevents anarchy. There is a point where the rights traded in for others may be incongruous to guaranteeing fredoms, and this raises questions on how trustworthy the government is. So then it comes down to this: how much are we inclined to willingly give up and, is it worth it? But then again, how could we really say no to being patriotic?